Sunday, January 31, 2016

Superman: Lois And Clark #4 - A Review

As an alien invasion fleet approaches Earth, Superman must prevent Blanque - a powerful psychic he imprisoned inside of his new secret base - from escaping along with a recently empowered Hank Henshaw. Meanwhile, Lois checks in on her editor - the only other person who knew about her investigation into Intergang - and discovers that she has disappeared!

There's quite a lot of metaphorical plates spinning in this story by Dan Jurgens keeps them moving with apparent ease. Both Lois' and Clark's respective storylines get plenty of time in the spotlight. There's even time for a flashback showing how Lois arranged for Clark to get his supersuit in this strange new reality as well as a  check-in on the approaching alien fleet.



There's two separate art teams on this issue but you'd never know it from looking. Close examination will reveal the differences between Lee Weeks and Marco Santucci's styles but the differences are not so jarring as to distract away from the flow of the book. The inks by Sergio Carifello and Scott Hanna are likewise well-balanced, with the colors by Jeromy Cox supplying the perfect finishes to the final artwork.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #4 - A Review

Doom has conquered the world!  Only nobody has noticed because he did it in the past before there were any heroes who could have stopped him. Or so Doom thinks. Because there is one hero, conveniently trapped in the 1960s, who MIGHT stop him yet - The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl!

The greatest thing about the series is how it revels in the sheer insanity of The Marvel Universe without having to exaggerate a thing.  Doom is played completely straight in Ryan North's script, which makes it all the more hilarious when the likes of Squirrel Girl and a bunch of second year computer science students are trying to thwart his plans. You don't see this kind of fun in modern comics often and thank goodness The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is here to provide it.


Erica Henderson's artwork is the perfect medium for capturing this anarchic spirit. There is a raw passion to Henderson's aesthetic that is well suited to North's scripts. And the colors by Rico Renzi are well chosen.

Superman #48 - A Review

The Justice League is held hostage as Vandal Savage makes a play for world domination. This would be a job for Superman... if he weren't running on empty. To refuel his powers, he will attempt a mad plan that could kill him faster than Savage's newest minion The Puzzler can. But that plan will require the help of one person Clark Kent would rather not talk to - Col. Steve Trevor of ARGUS.


The story this month is something of a mixed bag. Gene Luen Yang does a good job explaining the crossover so far for those readers, like me, who aren't reading any of the other Superman titles. And the concept for the new Puzzler - who absorbs technology into himself piecemeal - is an interesting one. Nevertheless, Yang his hampered by the fact that he's one writer at work at one part of a crossover and there's so much to be addressed that he doesn't have time to linger on some of the social scenes he's so good at writing. There's a lot of material to be mined between Clark and Steve's status as Wonder Woman's ex-boyfriends but Yang has little time to examine that here.


Unfortunately, the artwork is as conflicted as as the writing. With two artists and three inkers at work, there's very little visual continuity from page to page. About the only thing that is consistent is the coloration by Hi-Fi, which seems bright to the point of glowing like a neon sign.

Rick and Morty #10 - A Review

In a cyberpunk world where Rick Sanchez was never born, an evil Morty rules with an iron fist, Summer leads the resistance against him and Jerry is... well, pretty much the same. Seriously, there's only so much variation even in an infinite universe!

With the resistance crushed and Rick in Evil Morty's clutches, things could be very bad for the mulitverse if Evil Morty recovers Rick's portal gun. Can Morty rescue Rick from his evil, smarter self?  Probably not. I mean, this is Morty we're talking about. Even with bad-ass Sarah Conner Summer helping him, it may be a close thing.


The main story of this issue proves a worthy conclusion to the best story arc this series has seen so far.  Zac Gorman's script has the perfect balance of action and humor and it left me laughing out loud at several points.  The artwork by C.J Cannon, Cat Farris and Ryan Hill perfectly captures the look of the show.


The back-up feature - with art and script by Marc Ellerby - is also praiseworthy. The story here focuses upon Jerry and Doofus Rick (follow the link - that's what he's called by eminent RickAndMortyologists)  having a day out together. It's not as heavy as the main story but it is amusing and oddly sweet for what it is.  Ellerby also captures the look of the series in his artwork.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Arrow: The Dark Archer #2 - A Review

Malcolm Merlyn is a man of many secrets, for whom deception is as vital as oxygen. Yet the truth may be the only thing that can save him when he is locked in a death trap by an unknown enemy and bidden to tell the whole story of his exciting past. Here now is the untold tale of the man who would become Ra's Al Ghul... a man once called Arthur King.


It might strain credibility that Malcolm Merlyn could have been part of a secret society long before he became a billionaire industrialist and joined The League of Assassins. Thankfully, the rich tale spun by John and Carol E. Barrowman proves so riveting you'll gladly suspend your disbelief for the sake of a good story. And this is a good story!

That good story is matched by the artwork. Daniel Sampere perfectly captures the likeness of John Barrowman and draws a mean fight scene. Juan Albarran's inks are just right - not too light or too heavy. And the colors by Kyle Ritter are perfectly chosen, creating a cool aura as Malcolm lies chained in freezing water and a warm feeling as the metaphorical heat is building outside his bunker

Friday, January 29, 2016

Starman Plays Noctropolis - Part Four

In which we learn the sacred secrets of The Brotherhood of The Night and prove our worthiness to be the hero of Noctropolis... by physically and sexually assaulting our partner.  We then go looking for a clue and succeed.. after Stiletto seduces a security guard.

Yeah, Black Canary she ain't, folks.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1, Episode 2 - Pilot, Part Two

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.



Plot

A tip-off to Vandal Savage's whereabouts leads the team to try going undercover as arms dealers in 1975 Norway. Things go south quickly and a piece of Ray Palmer's ATOM suit winds up in the wrong hands. To prevent a paradox will require the help of an unlikely source - Professor Martin Stein's younger self!

Meanwhile, Carter and Kendra discover that one of the weapons that can kill Vandal Savage has recently reappeared. As they try to remember the incantation needed to work the dagger's magic, Snart and Rory head out to steal it... with a suspicious Ray Palmer along for the ride.


Influences

The Hawkman comics of Geoff Johns (Carter and Kendra's odd relationship) and Back To The Future (the theme of accidentally causing a relationship not happen due to Time Travel, the fading effects used to show Martin Stein's wedding ring fading in and out of existence.)


Performances

Caity Lotz shines bright in this episode. She said in a recent interview that she was looking forward to playing a more hopeful, fun-loving Sara and it's clear that she's enjoying herself immensely. Indeed, her portrayal of the Canary here is probably the truest any actress has come to capturing Gail Simone's take on the character.

The scene where Ray Palmer and Len Snart bond while disabling a security system is a nice scene for both Brandon Routh and Wentworth Miller.


Artistry

The fight scene at the arms deal equals - and in some ways surpasses - the famous long-shot fight scene from the first Avengers movie. The blending of special effects and fight choreography is flawless.

Sara's solo-fight scene vs. Savage's men in the lab is a nice bit of stunt work for Caity Lotz.


Trivia Of Tomorrow

When meeting his past self, Professor Stein uses the alias Elon Musk. Musk is a famous inventor, explorer and investor.

Martin Stein's younger self brags about being a five-time winner of The Carlin Award. This may be a nod to DC Comics longtime executive editor Mike Carlin.

Stein's line - "It's deja vu all over again." is a saying frequently attributed to Yogi Berra.


Technobabble

Rip Hunter explains that they cannot go back and change events in which they've already participated, saying that time would fold in on itself, creating a temporal vortex.

The Waverider has a special fabrication room that can fashion temporally-indigenous clothing.

Savage is selling a variable-yield nuclear warhead capable of producing a blast equivalent to one megaton of TNT.

The medical bay of The Waverider has a cryogenic storage facility for holding human remains.

Ray's ATOM suit shrinks because it is made of an alloy that mimics the intra-molecular compression of a dwarf star, thus emitting alpha particles. This allows them to track the missing part of Ray's suit to Vandal Savage's lab.

Lapidary hieratic - the language used to inscribe the incantation on The Amon Dagger - is an ancient language lost to the ages. Only the clergy of Ancient Egypt knew it.

The piece of Ray's armor which Savage recovered contains a miniaturized missile-guidance system capable of delivering high-explosive ordnance.

Among the equipment on The Waverider is a tachyon manifold.

Gideon describes Kendra's injuries as a sharp force injury resulting in rupture of several major blood vessels.


Dialogue Triumphs

Rip Hunter (opening narraton)  In 2166 an immortal tyrant named Vandal Savage conquered the world and murdered my wife and child. I assembled an elite team to hunt him throughout time and stop his rise to power. Unfortunately, my plan is opposed by the body I'd sworn allegiance to: The Time Masters. In the future my friends may not be heroes, but if we succeed, they will be remembered as legends!

Snart: Arms dealers and terrorists aren't exactly our kind of people. (smirking as he looks at Sara) But they're the next best thing.

Palmer:
First thing we need to do is work up a plan.
Snart: Got a lot of experience infiltrating criminal gatherings? Didn't think so. I'm calling the shots.
Hunter: Actually, I'm in charge, in case any of you have forgotten.
Snart: No, I remember. I just don't care.

Guard: You don't look like an Amhad Ahmed Izz-Al-Din.
Snart: I'm Arab. On my mother's side.
Stein: (angrily) Is there a problem?  I don't like delays. Do you know who we are? My associates and I are the operational arm of "Scimitar". The Lombardo Square Bombing, 1963. Murder of Henri Terron, Canada, 1970. Koenig Airport Massacre, 1971. Bottom line: you don't want to doubt me
(The guard nods and waves them through)
Rory: (whispering to Stein) You're a special kind of crazy. I like it!

Snart: We're just going to get our nuclear warhead and be on our way.
Auctioneer: Not without paying first.
Stein: Once we've validated that the warhead is operational. Personally, I find it highly unlikely that you were able to accumulate enough fissionable material is this era to fashion a workable nuclear device.
Savage: "This era?"
Stein: Figure of speech.

Rory: Can I burn some stuff now?
Snart: I wish you would

(The guard from before grabs Stein)
Stein: Now would be a good time!
Guard: Yeah! To kill you!
Stein: I wasn't talking to you!
(Ray Palmer, in his ATOM suit, flies out of Stein's pocket and cold-cocks the guard)

Jackson: Okay. What now?
Stein: We wait for the warhead to go off, at which point you're going to have .06 seconds to absorb the massive release of atomic energy.
Jackson: Your plan sucks! You know that, right?!

Palmer: (sarcastically, to Snart) Well, I'm really glad you were the one calling the shots.
Snart: I had it under control until the Professor started picking fights with the PLO.
Hawkman: (to Stein) You let your ego endanger our mission.
Stein: No, Mr. Rory's temper got completely out of control.
Rory: I thought we were friends, Professor?
Hawkgirl: At least there's one less nuclear bomb on the planet,.
(Rip Hunter slow-claps sarcastically as he enters the room)

(showing a hologram of modern Central City in flames as a result of Savage stealing Palmer's technology)
Hunter:  This is Central City in 2016. At least it WAS. I'm not sure what the neo-fascists who took control of it are calling it these days!

Hunter: Now, as for the dagger...
Palmer: You need someone to steal it.
Snart: (deadpan as he snatches the article regarding the dagger) Okay. Fine. Whatever. I'll do it.

Jefferson: (looking around at the students ) People actually wore this crap?
Stein: People smoked a lot of pot in the '70s. It clearly had a deleterious effect on the fashion of the era.

(Kendra gasps as she wakes up from a vision of herself and Carter in the past, getting intimate)
Kendra: We were together. Like, together-together.
Carter: Well, I have been telling you that you and I should be destined...
(Carter leans in to kiss Kendra but she pushes him away)
Kendra: What are you doing?!
Carter: What part of "destiny" do you not understand?
Kendra: The part where I have to stop thinking for myself.

Minion: The group that disrupted the arms auction. Any idea who they were?
Savage: A man in a robotic suit, weapons that shoot ice and fire? Suffice it to say, they're not from around here. I would assume the future.
Minion: That's impossible.
Savage: So is immortality.

(As Stein's younger self leaves the room)
Sara: 
I cannot believe that that is you!
Jackson: Seriously, I had no idea you were ever cool.
Stein: I wasn't cool. I was an arrogant little snot!
Jackson: Was?
(Stein begins digging around in the lab drawers.)
Sara: What are you doing?
Stein: Looking for my younger self's particle tracker. Keep an eye on the door, and when I get back, stop flirting with me.
Sara: You were the one flirting with me!
Jackson: Look, what's the big deal? I mean, younger you isn't married yet, so technically it's not cheating.
Stein: October 1975. This is right when I meet my future wife, Clarissa. So obviously we wouldn't want my former self tempted by a sexy assassin from the future.
Sara: Awwww, you think I'm sex-
Stein: Do not finish that sentence!

Sara's silently grabbing the joints as she, Stein and Jackson flee the younger Stein's lab.

(As Snart finds a secret panel and begins working on the electronics inside)
Palmer: How did you know how to do that?
Snart: When I was a kid, my dad brought me along on jobs. I had little hands. I could get into tiny spaces, do whatever he needed me to do, like... rewiring a security system.
Palmer: In another life, you could've been an electrical engineer.
Snart: Guess I dodged a bullet. You think I want to be like you?
Palmer: You make being a tech billionaire sound like a bad thing.
Snart: You spend all your time and money inventing a super-suit,and what do you do with it? Fly around like some incredible shrinking schmuck trying to save the world.
Palmer: And robbing banks for a living... I suppose that's more important?
Snart: It's sure as hell more satisfying.
Palmer: Thinking like that is what makes you a criminal.
Snart: No, it makes me a survivor. And there's gonna come a day when you wish you were too.
(Snart looks at the panel in annoyance as Ray looks over his shoulder)
Palmer: Here. (he takes the tool from Snart and points at a section of the panel) You flip the solenoid, saves you the trouble of rewiring it.
Snart: I take it back, Raymond. You're not completely useless after all.

Carter: Look, 4,000 years is a long time, and maybe I've been taking us for granted, expecting you to fall in love with me because that's what you've done the last 206 lifetimes, but you're right. Does not make us destiny.
Kendra: More like... probability.
Carter: Look, Kendra. You don't have to love me in this lifetime. As many lifetimes as it takes. I know you're worth the wait.

Chay-ara: "And though my soul departs the Earth, I count my days till my rebirth.
I will wait across eternity for my love to come back to me"

Firestorm: It's all good. Savage is down.
Hawkman: Savage is not defeated by earthly means.
Firestorm: Well, I hit him with a nuclear blast, so, you know, not that earthly.

(As the two walk the Ivy Town Univeristy campus)
Stein: Apparently it's true that the guilty return to the scene of the crime.
Hunter: Oh, don't be so maudlin. Look at your hand.
(Stein looks down at his hand, where his wedding ring has solidified)
Stein: How...
Hunter: I contacted your younger self and encouraged him to attend the faculty mixer. Turns out one of the professors brought along his niece.
Stein: You risked the timeline for me.
Hunter: Hardly seemed fair for you to sacrifice your wife in order to save mine from Savage's future. One thing that time travel teaches you is that time changes, people don't.
Stein: A painful realization I've recently come to.
Hunter: I have traveled countless ages into the future. We're still asking ourselves the same question: Why are we here? I believe that we're here to learn, Martin. Be glad that you still can.
Stein: Thank you, Mr. Hunter.

Stein: How's Kendra?
Sara: The same.
Jackson: So what now?
Hunter: Now? Now it's up to you.
Snart: To do what, Rip? Last I checked, every time we try to do anything, it all goes to crap.
Hunter: Oh, once again I must disagree with you. Thanks to Miss Lance, Dr. Palmer's future technology is no longer in the hands of Vandal Savage's black market weapons designers.
Stein: But it didn't do anything to change the fate of your world.
Hunter: No. Vandal Savage will still rise to power in the year 2166.
Jackson: And your family will still die?
Snart: So what you're really asking is, do we want to fish or cut bait? Return to 2016 and live out the rest of our lives as insignificant losers or...
Palmer: Make another play at becoming legends. Figure out how to end Savage and save the world.
Stein: Preferably, without causing any more nuclear explosions.
Rory: Savage has my attention.
Snart: Look, we didn't know Carter from Adam, but if you take out one of my crew, you better pay the price.
Stein: Surely Captain Hunter has a sound plan. (looking at Jackson) What about you?
Jackson: You're asking me?
Stein: I didn't give you much of a choice the first time, did I?
Jackson: Well, I say we kick Savage's ass. For Carter.
Sara: For Carter.
All: For Carter.
Stein: So, Captain. Where are we going next?


Continuity

Mick Rory hates flying.

Len Snart is a capable pickpocket.

Damien Darhk - the main villain of Arrow Season 4 - is among the many terrorists at the arms sale.

Vandal Savage has a sixth sense that allows him to sense the nearby presence of Carter Hall and Kendra Saunders through their mystic connection.

The dagger which killed Carter and Kendra in their first life - The Amon Dagger - can be used to kill Vandal Savage, in conjunction with an incantation that is inscribed upon the dagger.  Kendra and carter learned that these objects could be used to kill Savage in F208.

Sasha Mahnovski is the alias Vandal Savage uses in 1975. He pretends to be Russian.

Professor Stein was a casual marijuana smoker when he was a young professor. At age 25 he had two PhDs and was working on his third.

Young Stein brags about winning The Carlin Award five times. In F113, his older self was similarly snobby about winning The Conway Prize three times.

Len Snart's father taught him how to rewire a security system when he was a child.

Vandal Savage has learned every hold and pressure point imaginable after 4,000 years of life.

The inscription on The Amon Dagger is a love poem. In order to kill Savage, the dagger must be wielded by Chay-ara and the poem must be recited.

Carter Hall is killed by Vandal Savage.

As the episode ends, the team is stranded in 1975 until Kendra can heal.


Location

Norway - October 19, 1975
Ivy Town - October 1975


The Fridge Factor

Kendra's sudden declaration of love for Carter and belief in their destiny in the wake of his death comes off as sort of creepy given Carter's own behavior earlier in the episode, despite his apology and assurances that he can keep his distance and


The Bottom Line

Somehow, the second-half of the pilot improves upon the first. The action sequences are of cinematic quality in terms of special effects and blocking and the ensemble cast are playing off of each other beautifully. Damn near perfect
.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Arrow Episode Guide: Season 4, Episode 11 - A.W.O.L.

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.




Plot

John will need to learn to trust his brother Andy once again, when an enemy from their past - a soldier they both served with, turned agent of the criminal organization Shadowspire - arrives in Star City. Meanwhile, Oliver and Felicity begin to rebuild their life together in the wake of Felicity's paralysis. But Felicity suffers a crisis of faith in her abilities, made manifest as medication-fueled hallucinations of her black-hat hacker past self.


Influences

John Ostrander's Suicide Squad (the covert feeling of the story, dealing with clandestine government organizations and the presence of Amanda Waller), Chuck Dixon and Gail Simone's Birds of Prey (the issues Felicity is going through mirror those Barbara Gordon coped with regarding her paralysis, the code name Oracle is name dropped by Oliver) and the Deathstroke & Damage comics of Tom Joyner (The Shadowspire organization).


Goofs

It seems like removing the retinal patterns of a dead agent from your locks would be Priority One in an organization like ARGUS, with a leader as paranoid as Amanda Waller. This should be doubly true when they know that said agent's body had an eye missing when his body was found!


Performances

As usual, when given the center stage for an episode, David Ramsey proves himself more than capable of holding the show.

Scenes of a medicated character talking to their past self are a common cliche, but Emily Bett Rickards' twin performances here make the material work in spite of itself.


Artistry

The combat sequences during the Afghanistan flashbacks are effectively shot.

The special effects allowing the two Felicities to interact are of cinematic quality.


Trivia

Shadowspire is a criminal organization in the DC Comics Universe.  They first appeared in Deathstroke #53 and were created by writer Dr. Tom Joyner and artist Mike Collins. Shadowspire worked with South American drug cartels, providing them with weapons, transportation, intelligence and technology as well as trained agents with advanced armor and metahuman powers. Their technology was advanced enough that they were able to develop unique weaponized viruses.

The DCTVU version of Shadowspire is a similar criminal syndicate who like to recruit members from active military organizations. This leads ARGUS to the faulty conclusion that Shadowspire is merely a US Army Special Forces team that had turned to war profiteering.

The symbol/logo for Shadowspire used on the show - a red diamond with a smaller black diamond in the bottom corner with a red triangle within the black diamond - is taken directly from the comics.

Lieutenant Joyner - the soldier who recruits Andy Diggle into Shadowspire in the flashbacks and leads the attacks on ARGUS in the present -   is named in honor of writer Dr. Tom Joyner.

Shadowspire's leader in the comics was Baron Reiter, whom the main villain of the flashbacks on Lian Yu this year is loosely based upon.

When Oliver gives Felicity the code name Overwatch, he says he had considered the name Oracle but it was taken. This is, of course, a reference to the code name of the original paralyzed master hacker - Barbara Gordon. Whether this is meant to be an indicator that Barbara Gordon exists as Oracle in the Arrowverse or if this was just a fourth-wall breaking gag regarding how notoriously protective DC Comics is regarding Bat-family characters being used in other franchise or the accusations of Green Arrow continually ripping-off Batman is up foe debate.

Felicity's new code name - Overwatch - is also the name of an upcoming superhero game.  On the Earth 2 of the New 52 universe, Overwatch-One was the name of the personal spaceship of Terry Sloan. However, it is most likely it is a reference to the name of a novel by Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim.

Another 52 reference - both Diggle brothers were part of the 52nd Regiment and 5th Battalion of the US Army.

In the final flashback scene, Baron Reiter appears and is identified by Lieutenaut Joyner as "the boss". It is unclear, however, if he is the ultimately leader of Shadowspire or just the leader of that particular unit.


Technobabble

The body of Alan Chang - the ARGUS agent who tried to make contact with John and Lyla - is found with one eye missing. John determines the body suffered multiple lacerations to the knees, a broken arm and had three fingernails removed. This suggests that not only was Chang tortured and question but that his eye was taken to get past the retinal scanners required to enter ARGUS HQ.

Felicity is on a painkiller called Ketorolac. She says that the side-effects include swelling of the hands and feet, increased appetite, risk of infection and hallucinations.

In the real world, Ketorolac is the generic version of a drug called Toradol which is frequently used as a pain killer following surgery and does indeed include hallucinations among its many potential symptoms.

The security system at Shadowspire's base at Star City's docks includes motion sensors, laser trip wires and digital locks.

ARGUS believes Shadowspire were plotting to steal a shipment of confiscated rail guns. Rail guns are special guns that fire electromagnetic projectiles. Just one is capable of destroying a building.

The security monitors in ARGUS cell block work like TV sets, receiving broadcasts on the 700 mHz band. Diggle is able to switch the chip-set to transmitting mode, allowing him to send an image of the hostage situation in ARGUS to the Arrow Cave.



Dialogue Triumphs

Andy: How do you end up working out of a basement - or wherever we are - and fighting crime with a guy who wears a green hoodie?
John:  Well, he's a good man. And we're not fighting crime, Andy. We're taking a city that is holding itself together and we are helping.

John: How the hell could I not see this?! You were with me the entire time!
Andy: Because you saw what you wanted to see!  Look, you wanted to believe that The Army had straightened me out. Look, I'm your brother but I'm not built like you! I didn't take to the military like you did! You saw the world as something to be fixed! I only saw it as broken. So I made sure I had enough to survive in it.
John: So you pretended to be a completely different person around your brother?
Andy: It spared me the look that's on your face right now.

Goth Felicity: People wear masks for a reason. To hide who they are. Just like you have been doing for the past five years. First you decided to sign up for being the world's most over-qualified I.T. girl. And then you decide to try being a hero. And look what it got you? A ring-side seat to the rest of your life.

Waller: It's nice to have you back, Agent Michaels. Feels like old times.
Lyla: What feels like old times is you keeping secrets that get good people killed. Did it ever occur to you that Alan and the other two agents might still be alive if you hadn't tried to keep your anti-Shadowspire operations off the books?
Waller: Of course it has. But the ugly side of our business is that sometimes security has to be paid for in blood.
Lyla: Thank you. I was wondering why I'd left.

Felicity: I was at home, feeling more self-pity than I have in my entire life when it hit me. This is who I am. I wanted to come along on your awesome superhero adventure because I wanted to help people. And the old me was so angry at the world. But that anger never accomplished anything. It just created more anger. And some seriously bad personal style choices. I wanted to do some good in the world.
(Oliver just stares at her and she nudges him with her chair)
Felicity: That was a good speech. I thought you'd be a little more impressed!
Oliver: It was a good speech, but -
Felicity:  - but, how did it go again? "If I know you, and I do, you're probably thinking what happened was your fault." I'm here to tell you that it's not. And that it's not mine either. It's the fault of only one man and he has an extremely on-the-nose and alliterative name. And we're going to stop him. Not out of guilt or vengeance or regret. We are going to stop him because it's what we do. That's who we are.
Oliver: THAT was a good speech.


Dialogue Disasters

Green Arrow: Overwatch? We're on site.
Felicity: Excuse me?
Green Arrow: Well, I thought that it was time you got a code name. What do you think?
Felicity: It's perfect.
Green Arrow: Was gonna go with Oracle, but it's taken.


Continuity

Shadowspire's standard tactics are based around misdirection. They will attack targets in order to draw attention away from their true goals. The organization even masquerades as an elite military unit, hiding its true nature as an organized criminal organization.

Shadowspire's goal is the access codes to something called Rubicon.

Oliver refers to the events of 408 and Barry's traveling back in time to save them all.

Felicity's hallucination refers to the events of the flashbacks of 305 and her old boyfriend faking his death.

Amanda Waller is killed by Lt. Joyner.

Curtis Holt appoints himself as Felicity's personal driver.

Felicity officially takes on the code name Overwatch.

John and Andy Diggle were part of the 52nd Regiment and 5th Battalion of the US Army.

Felicity refers to Amanda Waller nearly destroying Star City with a drone strike during the events of 223.

Andy Diggle helps to steal confiscated heroin for Shadowspire. He is paid a generous bonus and meets "the boss" a.k.a. Baron Reiter, who tells Diggle that he traded the heroin for a map of Lian Yu.

At the episode's end, Andy Diggle moves in with Lyla and John and is introduced to his niece Sara for the first time.


Location

The flashbacks focused on John and Andy Diggle are set in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in the year 2005.


The Fridge Factor

Amanda Waller is rather unceremoniously killed by Lt. Joyner. I suspect the reasons for this involve orders from Warner Brothers to eliminate the last vestige of Suicide Squad related material from the series, so there is no branding confusion when the Suicide Squad movie comes out this summer. While I can't say I'm going to miss the Arrow version of Waller, it still seems like The Wall should have gotten a bigger send-off than being shot in the head by the villain-of-the-week.


The Bottom Line

A sedately-paced episode sold through the sheer quality of the core casts's performances. It is nice to see Felicity and John getting to share the spotlight for most of the episode after being so largely ignored during Season Three. And the separate subplots are starting to tie together nicely, with the revelation of Oliver's nemesis in the past having a connection to their current troubles as well as Andy Diggle's dark past.  Had they played Felicity's receiving a code name straight and not fridged Amanda Waller so callously (though I suspect the show runners had little choice on that front), it might have been perfect.

Starman Plays Noctropolis - Part Three

In which our quest to become a superhero leads us to disrespect the dead, get raped by a demonically possessed nun and irritate the most bipolar widow ever.

Oddly enough, Frank Miller did not write this story.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Flash Episode Guide: Season 2, Episode 11 - The Reverse Flash Returns

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.




Plot

The return of Eobard Thawne was the last thing Team Flash thought they had to worry about following Eddie's noble sacrifice. So when Cisco announces that he had a vibe of The Reverse Flash returning in his original body, nobody takes it seriously... until Dr. Tina McGee is kidnapped by a familiar figure in a yellow suit and her tachyon device is stolen again! Meanwhile, Iris tries to make peace with her mother and tries to build a bridge to her estranged brother Wally, as Caitlin struggles to find a cure for the ailing Jay Garrick.


Influences

Mark Waid's The Return of Barry Allen  (established Eobard Thawne as a Flash fanboy from a future where the 21st century superheroes were forgotten and went mad when he discovered he was destined to become his hero's greatest enemy) and Back To The Future (Cisco's fading out of existence is visually similar to what happens to Marty after he nearly causes his parents to never fall in love and the phrase 'back to the future" is dropped several times.)


Goofs

Barry's sudden fears about Zoom or the Reverse Flash being able to use Patty against him seem rather nonsensical. Ignoring that ignorance is a poor shield and that Patty's life as a cop is dangerous enough as-is, The Turtle nearly killed Patty last week in spite of her knowing nothing about Barry's life as The Flash! And ignorance of Barry's secret didn't help Iris at all during Season One!

For that matter, there's no good reason why her leaving to become finish her degree CSI means they have to end their romance other than giving Barry more "I am destined to give up everything to be a hero" angst. Heck, given Barry's powers, he would have an easier time than most coping with a long-distance relationship.

Really, apart from building the drama, there's no good reason why Jay should tell Caitlin to wait a day and to meet him at a park in order to explain why her plan to replace his genetic material with that of his Earth One counterpart won't work.


Performances


One of the biggest problems with the first season of The Flash was that Candice Patton was so rarely given any action of consequence beyond being a love interest or a hostage. Here, she gets two great scenes - one in which Irish confronts and forgives the mother who abandoned her and one where she confronts her estranged brother about his need to find peace with their mother as well. Both are powerful scenes and she sells both beautifully.

As stupid as Barry and Patty's respective decisions as characters are, Grant Gustin and Shantel VanSanten sell the hell out of them. Their chemistry is amazing and it is heart breaking watching Barry and Patty break-up because Barry is too noble to ask Patty to stay with him and give up her dream and she wants nothing more than to hear him say he wants her to share his life, come what may.

It's a subtle thing, but Harry's attitude toward Cisco changes slowly over the course of this episode and Tom Cavanagh does a masterful job of playing it up. From his annoyance to Cisco's slurping his coffee to his newfound enthusiasm for helping Cisco take control of his powers to the tense scenes in which Harry is the first person to start screaming at Barry about doing whatever it takes to save Cisco's life.  This final scene is particularly stunning and reminds us of the conflict from last season where - despite knowing Eobard Thawne's status as a villain - we still weren't exactly what to make of him. This season, we know that Harry is working to betray the team but he still feels something for the people who are helping him to save his daughter.


Artistry


The opening sequence - in which Barry has to stop a speeding, out-of-control chemical truck - is a nice bit of ironic comedy and a display of Barry's intelligence and creativity saving the day in a situation where just running fast isn't enough.  The entire sequence is also well directed.

The whole scene in which Barry races to save Dr. McGee from The Reverse Flash.  Effects. Direction. Performances. Everything.


Flash Facts

Einstein's Riddle is a famous logic puzzle apocryphally attributed to the famous physicist. It is also attributed to Lewis Carroll. Whoever created it, it's good at proving the point that anything can be solved through a long consideration of known facts and the process of elimination.

The goggles which Harry modifies for Cisco to wear in order to stimulate his powers resemble the goggles worn by Cisco's comic-book counterpart as part of his Vibe costume.

Another nod to the importance of the number 52 - Christina McGee dies at 9:52 pm in Cisco's vision.

The revelation that Eobard Thawne was a Flash fanboy from a future where the superheroes of the 21st century were legends whose identities were lost to history is taken from a Mark Waid Flash comic called The Return of Barry Allen. This comic revealed that Eobard Thawne duplicated the accident that created The Flash and traveled back in time in order to meet his hero.  He wound up arriving in a museum devoted to The Flash several centuries after Barry Allen's death and discovered that a man named Eobard Thawne from his time period traveled back in time and become The Flash's greatest enemy. This knowledge drove Thawne mad and made him determined to destroy the legacy he'd once sought to emulate.

Jay Garrick reveals that his Earth One counterpart is a man named Hunter Zolomon. In the comics, Hunter Zolomon is the name of the man who became the second Reverse Flash a.k.a. Zoom.


Technobabble

Harry determines that Cisco's Vibe powers depend upon an adrenaline rush to function and for dopamine to flood his brain. He confronts Cisco in the Reverse Flash costume, triggering a vision of The Reverse Flash kidnapping Tina McGee.

Harry theorizes that The Speed Force may have protected Eobard Thawne from the consequences of a time paradox, keeping his personal timeline intact in order to prevent the greater problems caused by his never existing at all. This turned Eobard Thawne's personal time-line into a time-line remnant.

This means that while Eddie Thawne killing himself did kill off his future descendant, it would not stop versions of Eobard Thawne who were outside of normal time and space from existing at moments prior to that moment on his personal timeline, where his presence was needed to bring about a fixed point in time - such as Nora Allen's death. So  Barry can do nothing to this younger version of Eobard Thawne because the consequences of the younger Thawne not going on to become his older self - such as Cisco fading out of reality due to what the older version of Thawne did to him - could be disastrous.

Caitlin comes up with a plan to cure the condition that is causing Jay Garrick to break down on a cellular level by replacing his dying cells with fresh living cells from his Earth One counterpart. Jay later tells her this won't work because he tracked down his Earth One counterpart and due to his genetics having been mutated by the accident that gave him his speed powers, their DNA would not match.

Thawne tells Dr. McGee to isolate and accelerate the energetic properties of the tachyons so he can use them to power himself up to achieve the speed needed to travel through time.

Harry adds a wavelength trigger to Cisco's goggles. This stimulates the fear receptors in Cisco's brain. Harry also took what Cisco had in the goggles to induce slow-wave sleep (aka Stage 3 sleep) and upgraded it to immediately send Cisco into Stage 4 Sleep (aka delta sleep). This gives them greater control over Cisco's vibes and allows them to focus his visions as well as dictate how long they last. This leads to the discovery that Cisco can see not only what has happened but also what might happen - not just in alternate timelines but in the immediate future of Earth One - as he sees Christina McGee's death some four hours before it is due to occur.

Harry says that superluminal energy is needed to send someone through time. Superluminal is the technical term for faster-than-light.

Thawne's imprisonment leads to Cisco entering a prolonged state of chronic seizing as an uncontrollable amount of electrical energy overwhelms his brain. This is due to the side-effects of the paradox caused by Barry's intention to lock up Eobard Thawne forever, thus preventing him from going on to give Cisco his powers.

Caitlin uses Benzodiazepine to sedate Cisco. This is the name of a class of drugs routinely used for treating anxiety conditions, sleep disorders and seizures.


Dialogue Triumphs


Barry (opening narration) There are many reasons why we run but usually it's to avoid what's right in front of us. A decision to be made or a dilemma we have to face. Lately, for me, it feels like running is all I've been doing.

Patty: Look Barry, I get that you're upset but I was hoping it wouldn't be like this between us.
Barry: Uh...  what did you think it was going to be like?
Patty: I... just thought we could at least talk before I left.
Barry: You're moving. I don't know, I mean... it just doesn't feel like there's much to talk about now. Right?
Patty: I guess not.

The Reverse Flash: Flash?
The Flash: Eobard Thawne?
The Reverse Flash: You know who I am?!
The Flash: You died!
The Reverse Flash: (pause) Good to know. And guess what Flash? I know what time period you're from. So that means very soon...YOU will die.

Iris: I have so many great memories from when I grew up. Now, when I think about those memories, I can only wonder what it would have been like if you and Wally had been there. (sobbing) I'm not angry at you anymore for what happened. I just wish you would have come back to us a lot sooner. Because I would have forgiven you then. Just like I'm forgiving you now.

Patty: You're just rolling with the whole "me leaving" thing?
Barry: Yeah, well I don't know what to tell you, Patty. Everyone in my life that I love leaves at some point. I'm kind of getting used to it.
Patty: You never told me that you love me...
Barry: Yeah, I guess I don't get that chance now.
Patty: I don't understand... what is it? What's going on with you? Why are you being like this?
Barry: My life is complicated and I don't want you to have regrets. Alright? I don't want you to miss out on something that you've always wanted to do and... I wish that things were different for both of us, you know, but they're not. Sorry.
Patty: Me too.

Cisco: Are you telling me I can see the future?!
Harry: That is exactly what I am telling you.
Cisco: Those goggles are getting named. Immediately.

Iris: I saw Mom today. She says you haven't been by in a while.
Wally: Yeah. She knows why.
Iris: She thinks it's because you're angry with her.
Wally: I have every right to be angry. Nothing for 20 years, then out of nowhere she tells me I have a sister? I have a father?
Iris: Yeah, the same thing happened to me too, remember? But that shouldn't keep you from seeing her before you can't anymore.
Wally: No,look...That's not what it is.
Iris: Then what is it, Wally?
Wally: I've got to go.
Iris: Last year my fiance died. Unexpectedly. One moment he was here and then the next - gone. I didn't get a chance to say goodbye to him. To tell him everything that he meant to me. That he was my world. That he was loved. But today, I got to say goodbye to your mom - my mom  - and it helped us both to find peace with what happened to our family. Wally, don't make a mistake you're going to regret the rest of your life. Go see your mom... while you still can.

Patty: I know you're The Flash, Barry!
Barry: Patty, c'mon...
Patty: Please don't make me feel any more stupid than I already do. Look, I'm a detective and I should have known. I was just... I was so smitten with you.
Barry: Okay, look... what... what you're saying?  It's... insane...
Patty: Look, you don't have to lie to me anymore, okay? I understand! I understand why you didn't want to tell me! I understand why you've been distant. Look, I understand everything! But just tell me the truth now. Just be honest with me!  Just... admit to me you're The Flash and I'll stay.
Barry: I can't do that. I'm not him.
Patty: That's too bad.  It would have been nice to stay. (starting to cry) Fight crime during the day. Be with you at night, but... I was wrong.  Take care Barry.

Barry: Why do you hate me so much?
Thawne: I didn't always. I was obsessed with you. For so long, I wanted to be The Flash. I spent years figuring out how you came to be. Duplicated the reaction... and it worked. (laughs) I became like you.
Barry: So what happened?
Thawne: This ability to travel through time revealed a truth - my fate was to become your greatest enemy. I was never going to be The Flash. So I became the reverse of everything that you were. The more people you saved...the more you were loved, the more I had to take from you.
Barry: That is why you killed my mother? That's why you ruined my life? Because you couldn't be me?
Thawne: (angrily) I became better than you! I am the one thing you cannot stop, Flash!
Barry: No. No, no, no. Not anymore.  Our race is over. And you lost.
Thawne: I've learned what time period you're from, Flash. And one day soon, I'll learn your name.

Harry: Thawne knows about you. Right here. Right now. This is where he learns about you, all of you. It's how he knows about STAR Labs, how he knows about me  (correcting himself) - the Harrison Wells of this Earth. There's nothing you can do about it. This is his origin story. And it's going to happen no matter what you do. But right here? Right now? You can send him back to his time. You can save your friend. You can save Cisco. And then move on your life..
Joe: This could be a good thing. You could finally let go of him.
Barry: I could throw him three centuries from now and he'll always be a part of me.

(learning that Barry helped Thawne return to his own time to save him)
Cisco: You let him go?
Barry: I couldn't let him take another person I cared about.

(Barry's phone vibrates. He sees that it's from Patty)
Barry:
That's weird. (answering it) Hello?
Patty: Barry? I'm on the train!  There's a - there's a man with a gun.
Barry: All right, uh - hold on. I - I - I'll get you help.
(Barry changes into his costume, runs out of Central City, catches up with her train and boards it in a rush of wind.)
The Flash: Is everyone okay?
Patty: Everyone's fine.
(Patty stands up in the aisle and looks at him.)
Patty:  It was a false alarm. Thanks for coming so fast, Flash.
(The Flash nods and stops vibrating his face)
The Flash: Just want to make sure everything's okay before I go.
Patty: Don't worry. Everything's good.
(The Flash nods and runs off. Patty sits back down and watches the lighting streak off in the distance.)
Patty:
Goodbye Barry.


Continuity

It is confirmed that The Turtle is dead following what Harry did to take a genetic sample from him last week.  Harry was able, however, to make the death look like a natural aneurysm.

The version of Eobard Thawne we see in this episode comes from before he made his fateful attempt to kill Barry Allen's mother, became trapped in the past and replaced the Earth One version of Harrison Wells.

As he arrives in the year 2016, this version of Thawne (addressed as Professor by Gideon), is ignorant as to what time period The Flash is originally from, let alone what his real name is and what he looks like without a mask.

Cisco and Harry's actions while Thawne is captured, however, do set the stage for actions that Thawne will take in the future - i.e. killing and replacing Earth One Harrison Wells, building STAR Labs and giving Cisco his Vibe powers.

Barry suggests they should focus on closing the breaches rather than how to slow Zoom down. Cisco insists this is as impossible as solving Einstein's Riddle.

Albert Einsten was apparently also a famous physicist on Earth Two and Harry is familiar with his work and Einstein's Riddle, claiming to have solved it when he was ten.

Cisco refers to his attempts to vibe Dr. Light (205) and Harry (206) in trying to figure out what causes his powers to trigger, noting that it occurred seemingly at random and when he touched someone from another Earth.

The secret room where Eobard Thawne kept Gideon and his costume has been dubbed The Time Vault by Team Flash.

Harry determines that Cisco's Vibe powers are dependent on an adrenaline rush to function.

Dr. Tina McGee is seen for the first time since 204.

Dr. McGee refers to the events of 109 and The Reverse Flash stealing her tachyon device one year earlier.

Patty figures out that Barry is The Flash based on information in his case files that only The Flash could have known.

Patty refers to how Joe told her she had to become a good liar as part of their job in 204, while noting that Joe sucks at lying.

Caitlin's father died of Multiple Sclerosis.

Jay reveals to Caitlin that his Earth One counterpart is a man named Hunter Zolomon, whose mother died in childbirth. He was bounced from foster home to foster home before being adopted by The Zolomons.

Jay says that Caitlin's plan to fix his degenerating cells wouldn't work because his DNA mutated in the accident that gave him super speed. He insists the only way to save him is to capture Zoom and find a way to take back Jay's power from him.


The Fridge Factor


Patty finally figures out that Barry Allen is The Flash on her own... after examining case files which contain information Barry couldn't have possibly known unless he was The Flash. While it is nice to see that Patty figured it out on her own, one wonders why she didn't figure it out sooner. Especially after last week when The Turtle kidnapped her thinking The Flash was in love with her, based on his reaction to seeing her endangered and he specifically told her his reasoning!


The Boomerang Factor


The fact that Barry is leaving enough evidence in his case files for the GCPD for someone to independently figure out that he is The Flash is a little disheartening.


The Bottom Line


The reverse of last week's episode, where all the subplots felt like a distraction from the main story involving The Turtle. This week, The Reverse Flash's return feels like a distraction from the infinitely more interesting drama involving Cisco mastering his powers, Iris rebuilding her family, Caitlin trying to save Jay, Patty dealing with Barry being an idiot and whatever the heck Harry is up to at the moment.  Still, it's a solid episode and there's a lot of forward momentum on all the plots. You just wish Barry and Patty - always a smart, young couple before now - weren't being made into total idiots in order to give Barry some more angst.

Injustice: Gods Among Us - Year Five #6 - A Review

Bane and Killer Frost have captured Catwoman and are using her as bait to lure out Batman on Superman's behalf.  It's an obvious trap but it's also an opportunity for The Resistance. So while Batgirl rescues Selina, the rest of Batman's inner circle move to turn the tables on Bane.


This issue is a riveting read, despite being relatively light on humor and action compared to what is typical for this series. That being said, Brian Buccellato's script entertains while setting up bigger battles in the future. Besides, it's hard not to like any comic where Harley Quinn calls Killer Frost "Ugly Elsa".


The art team have truly outdone themselves on this issue. Bruno Redondo turns in some truly intricate and amazing backgrounds this time around and Juan Albarran's atmospheric inking enhances everything perfectly. The colors by Rex Lokus are also noteworthy, stark greys and blues being utilized heavily to depict the urban hellscape of Gotham.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Supergirl Episode Guide: Season 1, Episode 11 - Strange Visitor From Another Planet

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.




Plot


Kara must help J'onn deal with his painful past and stop an intergalactic incident when a White Martian (whose race destroyed the Green Martian race save for J'onn) takes anti-alien politician Miranda Crane hostage. Meanwhile, Cat's estranged son arrives in National City after Kara sends him a letter claiming that Cat wants to get to know him.


Influences

The JLA comics of Grant Morrison and Howard Porter (created The White Martians), The Martian Manhunter comics of John Ostrander (destruction of Martian race following a civil war) and the Justice League animated series (White Martians being an underground race who successfully killed off the Green Martians).


Goofs

How is it possible for Miranda Crane to be building a reputation on an anti-alien platform when the existence of aliens - apart from Superman and Supergirl - is meant to be a closely guarded secret, at least according to Hank Henshaw in The Pilot, where he said the mission of the DEO was to "cover up the existence of aliens on Earth"?


Performances


David Harewood turns in a fantastic performance as J'onn, particularly in the scenes where he talks about the loss of his family. If there's any justice in this world, he'll be freed up to star in a Martian Manhunter spin-off next season.


Artistry


The imagery of the Martian genocide are visually striking and disturbing, despite their briefness. The design of the White Martian is also quite good, though it's obviously used sparingly except at night to hide the cheap quality of the CGI.


Super Trivia

The episode title is taken from the introduction to the 1952 Adventures of Superman TV show, which opened with the phrase "Yes, it’s Superman, strange visitor from another planet who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men."

Blake Jenner, the actor who plays Adam Foster, is married to Supergirl's actress, Melissa Benoist.

The White Martian race was created by writer Grant Morrison and artist Howard Porter for their run on JLA. White Martians are possess the same wide range of powers as Green Martians but are more war-like in attitude and temperament.

Originally, the Martians were one race capable of asexual reproduction when exposed to fire.  The Guardians of the Universe (aka the same aliens who created The Green Lantern Corps), fearing the threat The Martians might become, altered them into two races - White and Green - and instilled a psychic fear of fire that shut down their powers whenever they were exposed to it.

Despite this, war broke out between the two Martian races.  Though suffering high losses, the Green Martian race prevailed and most of the White Martians were sent into an extra-dimensional space known as The Still Zone - apparently distinct from the more famous Phantom Zone. Most of the Green Martian race was then killed off by a psychic plague.

Curiously, The White Martians were responsible for superhuman development on Earth being stunted. White Martian scientists migrated to Earth at the dawn of humanity and isolated the so-called metagene that regulated superpowers in humans. They altered the metagene to make it more random, preventing Earthlings from developing into a race with a uniform set of enhanced abilities like the Martians or Kryptonians.

J'onn says that The White Martians were responsible for exterminating his race. The background given here somewhat resembles J'onn's origin story in the Justice League animated series, where J'onn was the sole survivor of another race's attempt to destroy the Green Martians.

Justice League's opening episode, Secret Origins, was loosely based on Grant Morrison's opening arc for JLA, with a race of alien shapeshifters invading Earth and the world's finest heroes joining together to repel it. The aliens in the cartoon were not named as White Martians, but were instead an unspecified parasite race who mimicked the abilities of species they conquered. Still, they absorbed the Martians powers and were depicted as a race that dwelled underground - much like the White Martians of Supergirl.

J'onn says that he had two daughters - K'hym and Tanya. In the comics, J'onn only had one daughter, though her name was also K'hym.  In the Justice League animated series, J'onn had two children whose names and genders were never specified.


Technobabble


The White Martians used advanced technology, including something called fire-traps, to lay waste to the Green Martians.

J'onn can use a sample of White Martian's skin tissue to track it so long as it is in its own natural form.


Dialogue Triumphs


(After Henshaw refuses to start digging through the DEO looking for a secret alien spy.)
Senator Crane: Fine. Let a mole run wild in here, just like you let a White Martian run wild in the street. But when you're brought down from the inside, remember this - you were warned.
(One Scene Later, as Senator Crane continues pushing)
Senator Crane: It's in your best interest to find this alien interloper as quickly as possible. Your entire operation's been compromised.
Henshaw: There are no hidden aliens here.
Senator Crane: Are you absolutely sure of that, Director Henshaw?
Henshaw: (regarding Senator Crane evenly) I wish I could say yes... but I never said you were attacked by a White Martian.

J'onn: We'd known war. But not like this. White Martians had been toiling underground, building weapons of death. Fire traps. Their technology overwhelmed us. There was no honor in how they fought.  They herded us into camps. I swore no matter what I would protect my family. We wuld survive. But when we got through the gates... they took the women and children. Men were forced into labor.  The others were sent to the furnace. My wife and daughters... burned! I escaped. I survived, to my great shame. I will hear my family's screams until the day I die.

Alex: Hank, you alright?
J'onn: I'm in the sewers, Danvers. Everything is just peachy.

J'onn: She's in the desert. You get Alex and get out.
Kara: I'm not leaving you alone with that thing.
J'onn: You have to. I'm done.
Kara: Done? Done with what? It has Alex. We have to stop it!
J'onn: This started because it wanted me dead. My race is gone. If I'm all that's left, let it have me.
Kara: No! This murderer does not get to win! And you don't get to give up!
J'onn: This will save lives.
Kara: We don't choose. We fight!
J'onn: Kara, I'm tired of being the last! Tired of having lived! You, of all people, know how heavy it is to survive.
Kara: I do. I ask myself every day why my mother didn't crawl into that pod with me. Now I know she felt guilty. She felt responsible for what happened on Krypton. Dying must have seemed... honorable. But dying's a lot easier than getting back up when the world's ended. You have to get up! You have to go on!
J'onn: My road is done. I'll help Alex and then join my people. Wherever they are.

Henshaw: (To Alex and Kara) My daughters were named K'hym and Tanya. It's not the same but... any man would be proud to call you his daughters.


Continuity

Winn is actively avoiding Kara since the events of 110.

Lucy Lane is now working for Cat Grant.

Senator Miranda Crane is a good personal friend of General Sam Lane and shares his opinions on aliens... at least until the end of the episode, when her opinion changes due to Supergirl's efforts to save her.

White Martians are a subterranean species of Martian, who declared war on the surface-dwelling Green Martians, conquering them with their advanced technology. They killed all of the Green Martian race, save for J'onn J'onzz who was somehow able to escape and make his way to Earth.

The reason for J'onn's reluctance to use his powers is revealed when he explains that White Martians can sense his presence whenever he uses any of his powers except for shape-shifting, through a hive mind that all Martians share.

White Martians have the same powers as Green Martians, including shape-shifting, telepathy, phasing, flight, enhanced senses and enhanced physicality.

J'onn is 317 years old.

According to the captured White Martian, there are millions of their race still alive somewhere.

J'onn's daughters were named K'hym and Tanya.

Adam Foster asks Kara out on a date.

The episode ends with another Supergirl on the news, apparently throwing a wrecked vehicle off of a freeway.

The Fridge Factor

Between trying to force a reunion between Cat and her estranged son by lying, dropping the hunt for the White Martian to help Cat out after she makes the mistake of being herself with her estranged son and dating the son of the boss who is always one bad moment away from firing her forever... Kara does not come off as the brightest lure in the tackle-box in this episode.

She fairs slightly better than Alex, however, who seems to have been taken hostage by the bad guys in half of the episodes of the series so far.


The Bottom Line


There's two different stories in this episode. Neither of them really had anything to do with Supergirl and only one of them was worth telling. The subplot involving J'onn confronting one of the race that exterminated his own makes for an effective back-door pilot for a Martian Manhunter spin-off.  Alas, most of the episode is focused on Cat Grant being a selfish, self-absorbed bitch and Kara trying to hide that fact from her son. I never thought I'd despair for an episode's lack of Winn but at least he would have been a distraction from pretending there's hidden depths or warmth to Cat Grant's character.

Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor: Year Two #5 - A Review

Abducted by the odd "flying disks" that are snatching up whole prehistoric tribes, The Doctor and his new friend, the Neanderthal medicine man Munmeth find themselves somewhere else. Someplace where the people Munmeth protects have been taken and are forced to fight one another! Meanwhile, Gabby finds herself surrounded by a variety of aliens who seem to wish her dead!


The tale Nick Abadzis spins here is a riveting one. While the alien abductors menace is a common theme to Doctor Who stories, he puts a unique spin on this one by telling the tale from the perspective of Munmeth - a Neanderthal shaman who is something of a Doctor in his own way, in that he helps many tribes with a variety of skills some think magic. And the tone of the Tenth Doctor is perfectly captured as he investigates just what's going on and grows angry at the answers. You can hear David Tenant's voice in your head in these moments.


Elena Casagrande does her usual excellent job on the artwork. She skilfully show off her talent as a designer with the various alien races populating these pages. The color art by Arianna and Azzurra Florean vividly completes the pictures, with the final art looking particularly bright and vibrant as befits the primal setting.

King Conan: Wolves Beyond the Border #2 - A Review

Charged with a sacred quest by a desperate man, Conan and two of his most loyal knights have ridden west into the Pictish Wilderness. Their mission? To find some means of destroying the dark magics within an accursed crown. Alas, the Picts know of their approach!

Though Tim Truman's writing is wholly original, it beats with the heart of Robert E. Howard. The action of this issue perfectly captures the weird spirit of the original Conan tales and the whole affair reads like a lost work of classic pulp fiction.
This spirit is well portrayed Tomas Giorello. To my mind, Giorello is the finest Conan artist in the past decade. There is a visceral, untamed feeling to his character designs and a darkness to his inks that hints to the mystery of the ancient time beyond time of Hyboria. Colorist Jose Villarrubia completes this aura with a well-chosen palette of grim greys and greens that hint at the decay of civilization and the primal wild beyond.

Starman Plays Noctropolis - Part Two

In which we read more comics and finally make our way to the City of Night! And so we begin our superheroic career... by hassling civil servants and newspaper vendors for information you'd think we'd already know about the world of our favorite superhero.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Batgirl #47 - A Review

Someone is illegally using Barbara Gordon's research and all signs point to the GCPD. When asking her father for information doesn't pan out, Barbara recruits the other mystery women who protect Gotham City to pull a daring heist on the police department's network. Yet the answers Babs seeks may lead to more questions...

The best thing about last month's issue was its inclusion of The Spoiler. The addition of Bluebird and focus on the heist aspect of the story offers an additional enhancement of the book. I wish we had more high-action issues like this one, finding them infinitely more entertaining than the endless scenes involving Barbara's roommate drama or her relationship with Lucius Fox's son.
Regular artist Babs Tarr is replaced by two artists this month. Eleonora Carlini - most recently seen on Doctor Who: The Tenth Doctor - proves capable of matching Tarr in terms of quality.  Moritat, on the other hand, appears to be trying to ape Tarr's style, crafting sloppy artwork that is serviceable but ultimately forgettable.

Hercules #3 - A Review

Something approaches which threatens the world of myth - an uprising storm which has forced an uneasy alliance between Hercules and the monsters he once fought. Meanwhile, Gilgamesh - long content to rest on his laurels - will feel the call to heroism once again, as he takes a message from someone in need of a hero.


The theme of new worlds infringing upon the old is hardly new territory. Yet much as Hercules has been reinvented for a new age in this series, so to does Dan Abnett put his own unique spin on the world of classical myth. The story he is telling here draws comparison to Neil Gaiman's American Gods and Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books and it can stand proudly alongside these works.


Luke Ross's artwork is equally epic in every sense of the word. Ross' figures are heroic in scope and he fits an amazing amount of detail into each panel with no loss of clarity for all the lines. And the colors by Guru-FX enhance Ross's perfectly.

Clean Room #4 - A Review

Self-help guru Astrid Mueller has had a breakthrough! She has made contact with something not of this world - the thing that was responsible for nearly killing her as a child. Meanwhile, investigative reporter Chloe Pierce returns home to a strange encounter of her own...


Reviewing Clean Room is more difficult for me than most comics. Usually I can just summarize what has happened thus far in my head and the thoughts come naturally. In the case of this series, I am so continually surprised I find it impossible to quantify beyond saying that it is a gripping read. Take that for what you will but Gail Simone is outdoing herself, in this critic's opinion.


The artwork by Jon Davis-Hunt proves equally amazing. He excels at portraying both the mundane and the magical - and there is plenty of both in this series so far! Truly, this is one of the best series Vertigo has put out in years!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Starman Plays Noctropolis - Part One

In which we begin our quest to become a superhero - by considering our sad pathetic life, reading comic books, dreaming about sexy vampires and hassling a courier whose delivery company is violating a number of child labor laws.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Legends of Tomorrow: Season 1, Episode 1 - Pilot, Part One

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.


Plot

Rogue Time Master Rip Hunter travels back in time to the early 21st century to recruit a team to help him prevent a dark future where Vandal Savage takes over the world. In order to save the world - and perhaps all of time and space - they will have to be more than heroes. They will have to be legends!

Their first stop?  St. Roch, Louisiana, 1975 - the day before the death of the professor who was history's greatest expert on Vandal Savage's life.


Influences

Doctor Who
(the basic idea of a group that monitors the time stream and one member of said group going rogue in order to explore time and help people, Rip Hunter's character acts as pompous and mysterious as The Doctor, Rip's hand-held multi-tool acts like the Sonic Screwdriver, the special effects used to show The Waverider traveling through space and time are reminiscent of the time-vortex, the concept of Time fighting being changed is like Fixed Points), Star Wars (the Time Masters practice a code, similar to The Jedi, that prohibits Time Masters from falling in love or having children), Superman: The Movie (Rip's speech to The Time Masters is reminsicent of Jor-El speaking to Krypton's high council) Men In Black (Rip's abducting his team looks with a hand-held device that flashes a light looks a bit like the neuralyzer going off), Action Comics #552-554 (a group of seemingly random heroes, including Rip Hunter, join forces to stop Vandal Savage from taking over the world), Armageddon 2001 (a lone hero goes back in time to recruit other heroes to help him prevent a dark future from occurring, Rip Hunter's ship is named after said hero, Waverider), the 2007 Booster Gold series (Geoff Johns' wrote this series about Rip Hunter and other heroes averting time-based disasters)


Performances

Honestly, there's not a bad performance in the episode. The ensemble cast is gelling instantly and the slow building of these characters in The Flash and Arrow over the past half year has paid off wonderfully.

Some random character notes.

Brandon Routh gets a chance to show some emotional depth here, recent events giving him the inferiority complex the Ray Palmer of the comics had despite his many accomplishments. The technological giant has been made to feel small.

There's no small irony that it is the rule breakers - the rebellious college girl turned assassin and the two career criminals - who encourage Ray to fight destiny and point out there's nothing to stop them from changing their own futures. It will be a tight contest to see who steals the most scenes between Caity Lotz, Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell.

On that note, I love the brief flirtation between Caity Lotz and Wentworth Miller as Sara and Len in the bar scene and I am officially shipping Snara.

For all the jokes that have been made about Arthur Darvill playing The Doctor on this series, it was Victor Garber who reminded me the most of The Doctor in this episode. This is not a comment upon his age but his performance here reminds me of The Doctor as played by the great William Hartnell - the old professor who is not above lying or deploying trickery in the name of getting his way, all for the glory of science!  He plays well with Franz Drameh, and it's fun to watch the unlikely friendship between a former football start and a bookish physicist developing.

Talking of odd couples, the chemistry between Carter and Kendra is far better developed here than it was during The Flash/Arrow two-part story in late 2015. Falk Hentschel and Ciara Renée are starting to show some chemistry despite the awkwardness of their concept and the potential creep factor inherent in Carter's rushing to return to the love he remembers that Kendra has forgotten.

Finally, Rip Hunter himself.  You can't deny there's a bit of a Doctor Who influence on this show but that's not a bad thing. Arthur Darvill is an outstanding actor (I loved his work on Broadchurch) and if the worst thing you can say about his performance is that he reminds you of either Matt Smith or David Tennant (I personally put Rip's personality closer to Christopher Eccleston's take on The Doctor, but that's me), then it's really not a bad performance, is it?


Artistry

The script is a work of wonder. It jumps into the action almost immediately but still takes time to establish the cast and introduce the characters on the off chance there's anyone jumping into this series who isn't already familiar with Arrow and The Flash.  So long-time fans won't be bored and newbies won't be lost.

The special effects are all of cinematic quality.


Trivia Of Tomorrow

First appearing in 1959's Showcase #20, about the only consistent thing about Rip Hunter's history is is his status as a time-traveling good-guy. Originally existing in the modern day (i.e. Atomic Age USA), Rip Hunter was a scientist who invented a means of traveling through time in his ship, The Time Sphere. Hunter frequently traveled with his friend Jeffery Smith, girlfriend Bonnie Baxter and Bonnie's younger brother, Corky, having all manner of adventures in Earth's past and future.

Rip was one of several so-called Forgotten Heroes who joined forces to stop Vandal Savage from taking over the world in a three-part storyline in Action Comics #552-554.  While Rip Hunter is the only one of The Forgotten Heroes to have a role in Legends of Tomorrow, the story -written by Marv Wolfman - still does seem to have been something of an inspiration for the series, with the concept of a group of misfits uniting against a world-conquering threat.

The Pre-Crisis Rip Hunter has the distinction of being one of the few to survive the destruction of the original DC Comics Universe, his continual travels having literally made him a man out of time. He began recklessly traveling through time, hoping to explore the many alternate universes he had seen during the Crisis On Infinite Earths - not knowing they had all collapsed into a single universe as a result of the crisis. His activities gained the attention of the futuristic time-traveling police group known as The Linear Men. They were impressed enough with Rip's talent that they allowed him to join them in policing the timestream. He remained with the group until their destruction during The Imperiex War storyline.

Meanwhile, in the new Post-Crisis DC Universe, a new Rip Hunter was born. However, this Rip Hunter was not really named Rip Hunter. Instead, he used the name as an alias to protect his real identity, so as to prevent his death at a young age at the hands of the countless future-villains who would have access to time-travel technology.

The Post-Crisis Rip Hunter was also the inventor of Time Travel technology on Earth. He saw a great future disaster in his travels, becoming obsessed with averting it. To this end, he formed a group called The Time Masters who would monitor the time stream and prevent the disasters that might be caused by evil or incompetent people manipulating history. Later, Rip was revealed to be the son of the time-traveling hero Booster Gold, whom he aided in policing the time-stream in Booster's 2007 solo series.

Rip Hunter's arrival was foreshadowed in episode 123 of The Flash. There, Eobard Thawne planned to make use of a ship called a Time Sphere to return to his original time. He identifies Rip Hunter as the inventor of the first Time Sphere and notes that he was an interesting man, though whether he knew him personally or just found him interesting as a historical figure was left unexplained.

In his speech to the Time Masters regarding why they need to stop Savage, Rip Hunter drops the names of several great dictators, including someone named Per Degaton along with Hitler and Ceaser. Per Degaton is a DC Comics supervillain and would-be world-conqueror with time-travel powers.

As in the comics, The Time Masters job is to preserve the sanctity of the timeline - not to save lives.

Rip Hunter's ship is run by an Artificial Intelligence named Gideon. Perhaps not coincidentally, this is also the name of the AI utilized by Eobard Thawne during the first season of The Flash, which was apparently designed by Barry Allen.  It is unknown if this is precisely the same A.I. at a different point in time or if Gideon is the Siri of the future and becomes a brand name rather than one unique A.I.

Rip Hunter's ship is named The Waverider. This is a reference to a DC Comics hero called Waverider, who had the power to travel through time at will.  His real name was Matthew Ryder and he gained super-powers after bonding with the time-stream after traveling back in time to try and prevent his dark future from occurring. This took place in the storyline Armageddon 2001.

The temporal bounty hunter tracking Rip Hunter and trying to destroy his ship is identified as Chronos.  In the DC Universe, there are several figures with time-travel powers who have used the codename Chronos.  One was a criminal named David Clinton who had an obsession with clocks and time, eventually mastering the science of time-travel and time-manipulation. He became the arch-enemy of the Ray Palmer Atom.  The other Chronos was a man named Walker Gabriel, who used the first Chronos' technology and research to act as a hero and a villain, contesting with the time police squad known as The Linear Men and Rip Hunter.


Technobabble

Rip Hunter has a single hand-held device that is apparently capable of acting as a stun-gun, a short-range teleporter and a projector. He uses this to abduct the Legends and show them an image of the future he seeks to prevent.  He also possess a laser pistol that is modeled on a revolver.

The Waverider is equipped with holographic indigenous camouflage projection technology that keeps it hidden.

Palmer speculates that The Waverider utilizes ionic propulsion.  Stein says that's impossible since even advanced technology could not sustain an ionic reaction. Palmer disagrees, saying that it would be possible if you stabilized the quantum flux.

Ray Palmer wrote a paper on subspace field mechanics while he was a student of Martin Stein's.

Rip Hunter spent years studying the implications of chronological alteration.

The Temporal Zone is a time limbo.


Dialogue Triumphs

(As the group wakes up after being stunned by Rip Hunter)
Len Snart: Stein? What the hell are you doing here?
Martin Stein: I am as ignorant as you, for once.

Rip Hunter: In the future, he will employ the evil he's perfected over his long life and the power he has amassed throughout history to finally conquer the world. I've been tasked with assembling an elite team to stop him.
Sara Lance: How?
Rip Hunter: To travel through time, to capture Savage before he grows into the monster he becomes.
Len Snart: You got the wrong guy. "Hero" ain't on my resume.
Mick Rory: Or mine.
Rip Hunter: I know it's difficult for you to fathom but where, when, I'm from - the year 2166 - you, and everyone on this roof aren't just considered heroes.  You're legends.

Ray Palmer: I'm as trusting as you are cynical.
Oliver Queen: Well, I'm cynical and it's difficult for me to trust anyone, but that has kept me alive!
Ray Palmer: I died once. At least, the world thought I did. You know what happened? Nothing. All the money, all the buildings, all the inventions? The world didn't care. My life, ultimately, didn't matter. Rip is giving me the chance to help save the world. I have to take it.

Mick Rory: I can't believe you're thinking of hooking up with the Englishman. We're thieves! Crooks! Criminals! I have no desire to save the world. Especially 100 years after I'm dead.
Len Snart: He said across time, Mick. What about the years before? Before finger prints and surveillance cameras and DNA analysis.  Why did we become criminals?
Mick Rory: Because we hate working and we love money.
Len Snart: We could steal the Mona Lisa straight off Da Vinci's easel! Snatch the Hope Diamond before it was discovered! This is everything we got into thieving for in the first place. More than everything.
Mick Rory: You want me in, I'm in. But I'm not going to be anyone's hero.

Martin Stein: I don't understand your decision! But I respect it.
(Stein moves to his liquor cabinet and begins preparing two drinks)
Martin Stein:
Perhaps I can persuade Mr. Hunter that he needs my knowledge as a physicist and not my abilities as Firestorm? So I propose we have a toast, to my grand and solo adventure in saving the world.
Jefferson Jackson: Knock yourself out.
(Jefferson takes the drink and downs it)
Martin Stein: You took the words right out of my mouth.
(Jefferson's eyes roll into the back of his head and he collapses as whatever Stein spiked his drink with kicks in)

Rip Hunter: All your worlds are about to change.

Rip Hunter (To Sara, Len and Mick) Now, you three, feel free to make yourselves comfortable back here on the ship, while the rest of you are coming with me to find Professor Boardman.
Mick Rory: Woah, woah, woah, woah. You're benching us?
Sara Lance: I thought we were a team?
Rip Hunter: This mission doesn't require your particular skill sets. Yet.
Len Snart: Meaning you don't need anyone killed, maimed or robbed.
Rip Hunter: Precisely.
Ray Palmer:You sure it's a good idea to leave these two unsupervised on a time machine?
Mick Rory: Hey, haircut!  Deafness wasn't one of the side effects!

(Sara is dancing when a big man taps her on the shoulder)
Sara Lance: Can I help you?
Man: How about you join me in the parking lot?
Sara Lance: Hmmm. Tempting. But you're not my type. (glancing at a woman at the bar) But your lady, on the other hand, well, she looks just my speed.
Man: Maybe you didn't understand my request... bitch!
(The man grabs Sara's hand. She grabs his lower arm and twists, apparently breaking it. He screams and reaches for a beer bottle, breaking it. Sara calmly turns and nods to Len Snart, who is holding her beer and his.)
Sara Lance: I've got this.
(Sara begins kicking the ass of every man who charges at her.  Len just looks and Mick and smirks as if to say "I like this woman." The first wave of men start to pick themselves up and start to close around Sara on the dance floor.)
Sara Lance: Now I could stand a little help.
(Without a word, Len drops throws the beer bottles to the floor and moves in to start throwing punches. Mick grabs a stool and breaks it across the first person who gets in his way as a bar brawl ensues.)

Len Snart: We go out for one lousy drink and you guys somehow manage to pick a fight with Boba Fett?!

Martin Stein: A time limbo! Astonishing!
Rip Hunter: (sarcastically) Oh, there's something you people don't know about time travel?! That's surprising, isn't it? Considering none of you have ever time traveled before?!

(After Rip Hunter reveals he's been lying to them about being legends in the future and his mission to change the future being sanctioned by The Time Masters)
Mick Rory: Give me one good reason why we shouldn't kill you.
Martin Stein: Ditto the arsonist.

Ray Palmer:What's the point of us even giving this a a second thought?  Rip has already seen the future. He knows what's in store for each of us. Might as well have stayed dead. Because the world doesn't need us. (to Sara) You're just a lost assassin. (to Len and Mick) You're just a pair of good-for-nothing criminals.
Mick Rory: I can live with that.
Ray Palmer: Well, I can't. Can;t live with somebody putting a cap on my destiny. Spent my whole life to become something greater... by becoming something smaller. Then some guy comes along and tells me that being The Atom is as insignificant as an actual atom.
Sara Lance: That's not what he said. Rip said that in HIS future, we're nobodies. But this mission is about changing the future. If we have the power to change the world, don't you think we have the power to change our own fate?
Len Snart: For better or worse.
Ray Palmer: That's a very good point.

Ray Palmer: Whether it wants to happen or not, we're going to change time, erase Savage's future and earn our rightful place in history.
Martin Stein: Dr. Palmer is correct. We may not be legends in your time, Captain, but we are going to decide our own fates.
Carter Hall: I don't give a damn about being a legend. As long as we end Savage once and for all.
Jefferson Jackson: I can get down with that.
Martin Stein: And our malcontents?
Mick Rory: I like killing people.
Len Snart; We're in.  For now.

Vandal Savage: You know what this is? An instrument to make the world a better place. History teaches us that the cause of humanity is only advanced through strife.There's no Rennisance without The Dark Ages. And man had no interest in splitting the atom until World War II.
(Vandal Savage opens a create to reveal a nuclear warhead, which he strokes gently)
Vandal Savage: I'm just trying to make this world a better place... one war at a time.


Continuity

The episode opens in London 2166, during The Second Blitz.

According to Rip Hunter, Vandal Savage can only be permanently killed if either Kendra or Carter strikes the death blow. Otherwise he can regenerate even from a single cell.

Leonard Snart is seen for the first time since F209.

Carter Hall and Kendra Saunders are seen for the first time since A408.

Ray Palmer is seen for the first time since A407.

Sara Lance is seen for the first time since A406.

Martin Stein and Jefferson Jackson are seen for the first time since F204.

Mick Rory is seen for the first time since F201, though that was in a dream sequence. His last true appearance was in F116.

Vandal Savage killed Carter and Kendra 206 times in their past lives over 4000 years.

As in A408, Kendra still has sporadic recall of her past lives compared to the total recall Carter has.

Carter and Kendra settled disputes in their past lives with physical combat.

Cisco Ramon designs the new White Canary costume at Laurel Lance's request. It is Laurel who comes up with the name White Canary, suggesting Sara follow Oliver's example and fight in the light.

Ray Palmer was a student of Martin Stein's at some point, though Stein doesn't remember him.

Professor Aldus Boardman - history's greatest expert on Vandal Savage - appears for the first time since A408.

The physical side-effects of time travel include nausea, vertigo and temporary blindness lasting about one minute. In some rare instances, there may be bleeding from the eyeballs. The effects become more extreme the further you travel.

Professor Aldus Boardman was the son of Joe and Edith Boardman - a young couple who were one of Carter and Kendra's previous reincarnations. He was orphaned when he was ten.

Professor Boardman has pictures placing Vandal Savage at the Kennedy assassination as well as alongside Joseph Stalin and Idi Amin. He also claims that Savage was responsible for convincing Gavrilo Princip to kill the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria, thus starting World War I.

Mick Rory's mom played a lot of Captain and Tennille songs when he was young.

Rip Hunter is a rogue Time Master who stole The Waverider in order to change the past in defiance of the Time Master's edict. He also chose each of the eight to help him because their lives had minimal effect on his timeline.

The Time Masters discourage romance, marriage and procreation.

Rip Hunter had a son named Jonas. Jonas' mother is not named, but Rip Hunter fell in love with her and had children despite Time Master protocol.

Professor Broadman gives Kendra his mother's ring before he dies. She remembers it  She tells Carter it is okay if he calls her Chay-ara from now on.

Time has a way of ensuring that events happen a certain way. In this case, Professor Broadman is killed by Chronos' laser instead of dying in his office.

The episode ends with Vandal Savage stealing a nuclear warhead in Norway 1975.


Locations

London - 2166
Star City - January 2016
Tibet - January 2016
Pittsburg - January 2016
St. Roch - January 2016
Central City - January 2016
St. Roch - October 17, 1975
Norway - October 1975


The Bottom Line

Flawless. This pilot hits all the right notes - script, acting, special effects. This series does not just redefine superhero TV shows. Legends of Tomorrow redefines what it is possible for a television series to accomplish. Rip Hunter says it best - "All your worlds are about to change."